28 Nov

First Things First

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November 17 & 18, 2012

Matthew 6:25-33

“First Things First”

Tom Willetts

Thanksgiving Sunday

 

Matthew 6:25-33 25

Do Not Worry

25 “Therefore I tell you, do not worry about your life, what you will eat or drink; or about your body, what you will wear. Is not life more than food, and the body more than clothes? 26 Look at the birds of the air; they do not sow or reap or store away in barns, and yet your heavenly Father feeds them. Are you not much more valuable than they? 27 Can any one of you by worrying add a single hour to your life[a]?

28 “And why do you worry about clothes? See how the flowers of the field grow. They do not labor or spin. 29 Yet I tell you that not even Solomon in all his splendor was dressed like one of these. 30 If that is how God clothes the grass of the field, which is here today and tomorrow is thrown into the fire, will he not much more clothe you—you of little faith? 31 So do not worry, saying, ‘What shall we eat?’ or ‘What shall we drink?’ or ‘What shall we wear?’ 32 For the pagans run after all these things, and your heavenly Father knows that you need them. 33 But seek first his kingdom and his righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well.

Footnotes:

  1. Matthew 6:27 Or single cubit to your height

 

Ready or not here we go! With the celebration of Thanksgiving begins the great race to Christmas -37 days and counting down. I trust this is not a surprise to anyone. As if we hadn’t already noticed that all the stores are getting ready with the decorations. Two weeks ago I saw a live Santa Claus already sitting in a Mall display with “elves” in training.

The big controversy this year seems to be the creep of Black Friday store hours and openings into Thanksgiving Day. The stores are saying that we asked for the earlier hours so we could grab the bargains and go back to bed. It’s to relieve our stress and worry. Some of the employees are saying they won’t work – there are several online petitions, others seem willing to work for the holiday double pay they have been promised. The sure thing that I have noticed is that everyone seems to get quite anxious and worried about many more things at this time of year. If it is not the usual food, fun, gifts and family, then we seem to add in worries about store hours and public displays, or what a billboard some place might say, or what someone will write in an editorial.

Perhaps rather than being thankful today you are more apt to say, “Enough trouble already – All I want is a quiet day with no fights and squabbles. I want no more worries for one day.”

Perhaps you are very worried about “the meal” and “the family” and “what if they come” or “what will they say.” The holiday season can be the pinnacle of worry season as well.

Into worry I have read this scripture and you are saying to yourself, “Sure pastor, if I don’t worry it won’t get done.” I hope no one would hear this and simply adopt the mantra “Hakuna Mattata” made famous by those philosophers of the jungle from Lion King – Timon and Pumba and their outlook on life. “No worries.” But is that really what happens? Even Timon and Pumba realized that life was really more complex than simply ignoring all worries. They were worried about everything, until they got the young prince lion to be their faithful friend.

But how is it that we have this scripture that tells us: Therefore I tell you, do not worry about your life, what you will eat or drink; or about your body, what you will wear. Is not life more than food, and the body more than clothes? 26Look at the birds of the air; they do not sow or reap or store away in barns, and yet your heavenly Father feeds them. Are you not much more valuable than they? 27Can any one of you by worrying add a single hour to his life[a]?

What do we do? How do we act in this holiday season filled with worry and live these words as followers of Jesus? After all, he gave us these words, he told us: “31So do not worry, saying, ‘What shall we eat?’ or ‘What shall we drink?’ or ‘What shall we wear?’ 32For the pagans run after all these things.” Wait Jesus, am I suddenly a pagan for worrying? Am I a pagan for being concerned? I was worried about food a moment ago, now I’m worried about my eternal relationship with you? Now I am feeling the worry. Now, we are experiencing the problem.

Yet the Father knows we need these things. What are we to do? The key point is focus. Jesus is teaching us that to live thankfully in this world – and not be overwhelmed by worry – no matter the holiday or season or events in life – we must keep our focus centered on the Kingdom of God.

Does worry about the turkey – its size or the recipe or the stuffing – cause the bird to come out better? Does worry about what people will say, cause them to speak or say different words at the dinner table? Does worry about my holiday outfit suddenly transform the response of my guests to it? NO. Besides look at the birds of the air – look at the lilies of the fields consider the grass of the field and what do we realize? They are all fine, just as God has created them. Live life – do your best and don’t worry. The text does not say – don’t care and don’t try your best. The text says, don’t worry. Worry about this life, this moment, causes us to not focus on the goal of our eternal lives – the Kingdom of God.

Many people say, “Being thankful is all about seeing the glass is half full and not as half empty.” I disagree. That too is the wrong focus. Being thankful is seeing that there is a glass and that God will constantly fill it to whatever amount you need. Being thankful is not about amount. It is about focusing and recognizing God’s provision. Our worry will not affect God’s loving provision for us. God is going to provide. God always does provide. Whether the glass has the amount of water in it that we want or feel we are happy with makes the water level suddenly all about me and my worry – not about the water. Thanksgiving is about giving thanks to God for the glass and any amount that you can see in the glass. The scriptures guarantee constantly that God will continually supply our needs. We are not to worry. We are to participate. We participate by first seeking the Kingdom of God.

Let’s remember the pilgrims, who started this Thanksgiving idea in America, were desperately seeking the opportunity to express religious freedom. They had suffered much discrimination and abuse in England – their homeland – and were not so happy in Holland – to which they had fled seeking relief. Then an English businessman offered them a deal. He offered them a trip to a new and undeveloped place called America, where they could settle and freely express their religious beliefs. All this could be theirs if they faced the unknown and uncertain future. Talk about a worry.

The Pilgrims faced this opportunity – this worry – with all the Christian skills and discipline they could muster – prayer, Bible study, experience and fellowship – and they set off for America. They arrived in modern day Massachusetts late in December of 1620 with few provisions and no shelters. Within a month 10 out of 17 fathers and husbands died. Within a couple of months only 4 of the 17 mothers and wives survived. By the first Easter almost half of the pilgrims were dead. I’m sure someone surely asked, “Where is God’s provision?” Someone was worried. Yet, by the fall of 1621 – less than one year after landing – they are celebrating the first Thanksgiving meal. Not quite as we do – but none the less a feast.

For what were they thankful? Did they mourn the many who had died – YES. Did they worry about their survival during those first months – YES. Did they struggle – YES. All of this happened, but obviously to celebrate thanksgiving in the midst of all they had been through they must have had their focus in a unique and holy place – The KINGDOM of GOD.

To seek is to intentionally invest time and effort to pursue that which we desire. We don’t casually seek or accidentally seek or wander around as we seek. To seek is to focus all attention toward realizing the desired object or goal. To seek the Kingdom of God is to clarify our focus on the Kingdom of God. We aren’t groping around blindly – we are seeking actively and committing ourselves intentionally to engage as full participants in the Kingdom of God.

We seek through PRAYER, BIBLE STUDY, EXPERIENCE, and FELLOWSHIP. All with the intent to find – to discover – to realize a more intimate relationship with God. When we realize the purpose of our seeking we will also realize that all that we truly need is supplied. Worry has been replaced with faith and confidence in the holy and complete provision of God.

There is no doubt – there is no worry – there is no lack – there is only focus on seeking the Kingdom of God – first and foremost – only. Then the promise will be realized that all these things will be given to you as well. Have a blessed Thanksgiving.

In the name of the Father, Son and Holy Spirit. AMEN.

 

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